Cover image for The color of my words
The color of my words
Joseph, Lynn.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Joanna Cotler Books, [2000]

Physical Description:
138 pages ; 20 cm
When life gets difficult for Ana Rosa, a twelve-year-old would-be writer living in a small village in the Dominican Republic, she can depend on her older brother to make her feel better--until the life-changing events on her thirteenth birthday.
General Note:
"Joanna Cotler books."
Reading Level:
840 Lexile.
Program Information:
Accelerated Reader AR MG 5.1 3.0 42817.

Reading Counts RC 6-8 5.5 7 Quiz: 24703 Guided reading level: NR.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Young Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Young Adult

On Order



Sometimes you have no control over what will happen next, as I discovered the year I was twelve years old. . .

Ana Rosa is a blossoming young writer growing up in a poor seaside village in the Dominican Republic. At twelve, she finds herself faced with turning points that will make up who she is--watching her brother's search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be a part of a community.

But in a country where words are feared, Ana Rosa must struggle to find her own voice and the means for it to be heard. Gradually she learns that her words have the power to transform the world around her-celebrating what is most beautiful on her island and transcending even the most unthinkable of tragedies.

This debut novel from poet Lynn Joseph is a lush and lyrical journey into the landscape and culture of the Dominican Republic. The Color of My Words explores the pain and the poetry behind what it means to be part of a family, what it takes to find your place in the world-and what it feels like to write it all down.

Books for the Teen Age 2001 (NYPL), Notable Children's Trade Books in the Field of Social Studies 2001, National Council for SS & Child. Book Council, 2001 Notable Children's Books (ALA), Top 10 Youth First Novels (Booklist), and Children's Books 2000-NY Public Lib.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Gr. 4^-6. The author of A Wave in Her Pocket (1991) and other picture books set in Trinidad moves to the Dominican Republic for her first novel. Ana Rosa may not have her eye fixed on the future the way her beloved big brother, Guario, does, but as she's already filling every available scrap of paper with poems and stories, her vocation is clear. In simple but eloquent verse and prose, she introduces her family and her small, tightly knit community as she recounts pivotal events in her twelfth year, from a first crush to learning that her rum-and-merengue-loving Papi isn't her real father. Then news comes that the whole neighborhood is going to be razed to make way for a tourist hotel. Led by Guario, all band together to protest, but on Ana Rosa's thirteenth birthday the bulldozers arrive, with soldiers to defend them, and she sees Guario shot down. Unlike Frances Temple's Taste of Salt (1992), set in neighboring Haiti, this is less an indictment of a violent, corrupt, repressive regime than a coming-of-age story, propelled as much by the joy of finding the right words and capturing them on paper as by past or present tragedy. In the end, the words that had deserted Ana Rosa at her brother's death begin to sing inside her again, and with a new sense of purpose she resolves to use them to tell her brother's story. John Peters

Publisher's Weekly Review

In finely wrought chapters that at times read more like a collection of related short stories than a novel, Joseph (Jump Up Time) presents slices from the life of Ana Rosa just as she is about to turn 13. Through the heroine's poetry and recollections, readers gain a rare intimate view of life in the Dominican Republic. Ana Rosa dreams of becoming a writer even though no one but the president writes books; she learns to dance the merengue by listening to the rhythms of her beloved ocean; and the love of her older brother, Guario, comforts her through many difficulties. The author's portraits of Ana Rosa and her family are studies in spare language; the chapters often grow out of one central imageÄsuch as the gri gri tree where Ana Rosa keeps watch over her village and gets ideas for her writingÄgiving the novel the feel of an extended prose poem. The brevity of the chapters showcases Joseph's gift for metaphoric language (e.g., her description of Ana Rosa's first crush: "My dark eyes trailed him like a line of hot soot wherever he went"). When the easy rhythms of the girl's island life abruptly change due to two major events, the author develops these cataclysms so subtly that readers may not feel the impact as fully as other events, such as the heroine's unrequited love. Still, it's a testimony to the power of Joseph's writing that the developments readers will empathize with most are those of greatest importance to her winning heroine. Ages 8-12. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 5-8-Joseph paints the world of Ana Rosa and her family in this gem of a novel. The girl dreams of being a writer, but knows that this is a very unusual wish in the Dominican Republic. Like her ever-drinking father, she is a dreamer, but like her Mami, who fears for her daughter's safety if she writes, she learns that time is like the river that rushes by and never passes again. When the government tries to destroy the houses in the village to make room for foreign investors, Ana Rosa writes an article quoting her beloved older brother, Guario, and tries to get support for protecting their homes. Her article is distributed by three newspapers, but her words are not powerful enough to divert money, contracts, bulldozers, and guns. On her 13th birthday, the government troops arrive, shooting begins, and Guario is killed. Six months later, as a late birthday celebration, Ana Rosa receives a typewriter and hundreds of sheets of white paper. Now she has her brother's story to tell and the words are filling up her head. Although Ana Rosa lives in a Caribbean country, readers everywhere will connect with her story, especially those who have dreams, disappointments, tragedy, environmental concerns, and a love of words and writing. Each chapter opens with a poem that sets the mood. A finely crafted novel, lovely and lyrical, this book is a unique addition to library shelves.-Helen Foster James, University of California at San Diego (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.